PNG Hunters start post-lockdown campaign with a loss

3:48 pm on 30 August 2021

The Papua New Guinea Hunters rugby league team have lost their first game back in the Intrust Super Cup competition on the weekend, after South-east Queensland was put into a five-week snap lockdown because of Covid-19.

PNG Hunters winger Brendon Gutono.

PNG Hunters winger Brendon Gutono. Photo: Jim O'Reilly/QRL

The Hunters took the lead after half-time, but it wasn't long before the Souths Logan Magpies were able to even the score, eventually scoring another in the last 90 seconds to claim a 32-26 victory.

Coach Matt Church said despite the result, he was impressed with how they played after having five weeks off.

"We've relocated for a reason, it certainly wasn't for lockdown, it was to play some rugby league, so we're all excited and it was really good to get back into it," he said.

Matt Church said after a month off they did not know what to expect. But he said they probably played some of their best footy of the year which is really encouraging.

"We moved the ball really well, both our centers played strongly which means they got good early ball, so it was one of those tight games and unfortunately, we just didn't put enough pressure on with our kicking game."

The Hunters sit 10th on the competition ladder, with four wins and 10 losses this season.

They have two games remaining and go up against the Central Queensland Capras, who are currently sitting last, this weekend.

Church said after their performance against the Magpies, he's confident the team can move the ball around and and hit the targets they need to.

"The places we tried to target on the weekend we were really good at that, and I think that's where we saw the back of our points coming," he said.

"Besides the little things in our game that we need to fix up, we're not too far away, we just need to stay focused on the rest of our season."

Matt Church said the team were excited to be playing against a squad which have a number players with PNG heritage.

"I think they have three or four players with Papua New Guinean heritage, so the boys will obviously enjoy playing against some of the country-men."

The PNG Hunters have relocated to Queensland for the 2021 season.

The PNG Hunters have relocated to Queensland for the 2021 season. Photo: Scott Davis / QRL

Church said with two games remaining, players are excited to be reunited with family again, but they're staying focused.

"Eveyone's keen to get home and but we want to finish the season strongly," he said.

"We know we're here to play rugby league so we'll get that done, and then as soon as that's no longer needed for us, we'll get them home so they can see family."

Church said while there's no confirmed date for the season to kick-off next year, he expects the team will need to relocate again to Australia to ensure they remain in the competition.